#Parkupforhomes last protest in Palmerston North

The #ParkUpForHomes movement has seen over 2000 people rally together in locations across New Zealand, standing for the rights of all Kiwis to have a safe, warm home to live in. This Friday, Park Up For Homes will hold its final protest event in Palmerston North, but organisers say: "This is not the end."

Success of the #ParkUpForHomes campaign can be measured by the increased public and media awareness of homelessness in New Zealand, and a notable change in the narrative about what being homeless really means. Homelessness in New Zealand is not about individuals 'not taking responsibility for themselves', it is about low-income families forced to sleep in cars because they simply cannot afford to rent a home privately. Social housing is not geared to accommodate the numbers in need.

According to Otago University research there are 41,000 New Zealanders without a place to call home, and 53% of that total is comprised of families and students. It is heartening to see charities and community organisations, such as Te Puea Marae and the Salvation Army working to urgently house many in need, but Government must be taking more responsibility to rectify the ballooning problem. To date however, they have provided nothing solid to improve the lives of those most affected by the housing crisis in New Zealand.

On July 2 Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett announced a paltry $9 million over two years in what the Governments says will "Deliver Better Housing Outcomes".

"Half this budget is for community organisations to work with state tenants when they are in danger of losing their tenancies," says Alan Johnson, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) spokesperson for housing.

"In effect the Government is paying NGO’s to stop a Government agency from evicting state tenants - this is just plain crazy."

#Park Up For Homes: Palmy is being run by members of the community, in association with Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). CPAG will continue to do more work in the area of housing for low-income families, as part of their Everyone Deserves a Home campaign.

The decision to have a #ParkUp event in Palmerston North was made by students from Ross Intermediate, led by 11-year-old Carly Atkins. This level of engagement on the subject of homelessness by young school children is evidence the brevity of the situation is resonating with New Zealanders from all walks of life. This is not the New Zealand our children want - and they deserve much better.

Carly says "We are looking forward to raising the issue of homelessness with the people of Palmerston North. Together we can make a difference."

Park up for homes: Palmy will be held in the Salvation Army carpark, this Friday 2 September, corner Church and Princess Streets, Palmerston North. Visit theFacebook event to RSVP. The family friendly rally will include free entertainment and sausage sizzles. All are welcome - and organisers are hopeful that local MPs will also show up to support those who have been living rough.